Fine motor skills involve using the small muscles of our hands and coordinating with the rest of the body. Fine motor movements enable functions such as writing, threading beads, holding small objects, good handwriting and fastening clothing. Weaknesses in fine motor skills can affect a child’s ability to eat, write, and perform daily personal care tasks such as brushing teeth and getting dressed. Fine motor skill development begins in infancy when a 2- to 3-month-old baby first hits a toy, then progresses to holding, releasing, and transferring objects between their hands (Case-Smith &Shortridge, 1996; Edwards, Buckland, & McCoy-Powlen, 2002; Erhardt, 1994).
Children will benefit from experiences that enhance their fine motor skills. It is essential that children have the strength and coordination in their hands and fingers, as well as eye-hand coordination, before they begin to write. As a parent, you can encourage your child to develop fine motor skills with everyday tasks such as buttoning clothes, opening and closing jars, and playing with dough.
By the age of 3 or 4, children should be able to:
- Use playdough to make balls
- Draw a circle by herself
- Start to hold a crayon with a mature grasp
- Cut across a piece of paper
- Manage buttons
- Able to put on most items of clothing, but may still need help with shirts and jackets
- Feed herself with spoon and fork
Some activities to develop fine motor skills:
- Have your child transfer small items from one bowl to another using a clothespin. Coins, beads, and other small items work well, as well as small pieces of food such as rice.
- Tear and crumpel paper, which develops the same muscles we use for handwriting. Have your child tear newspaper with her fingers and crumple it into balls
- Pick up objects using tweezers
- Draw in sand
- Peel and stick stickers
- Provide your child with stencils or dot-to-dot pictures to trace.
- Use toys that push together and pull apart. The coordinated use of both hands develops using apart/together toys, such as stacking cups.
- Dress dolls or stuffed animals in clothing
- While singing nursery rhymes, use fingers to act out motion of songs, such as “Itsby Bitsy Spider.” While your child has fun singing, she will be exercising small muscles in her hands.
- Pointing activities: Pointing to pictures in book and other objects develops individual finger movement, as your child isolates his index finger. Pushing buttons is a good strengthening activity for the index finger.
- Play toy musical instrumentals, such as the drum. With toy instruments, your child will learn to develop control of her arm movement.